Loving the ghost, questioning the present

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Or is it loving the present, questioning the ghost? Isaac Resnikoff‘s exhibit “We Run out of Continent” at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery is definitely about love — for objects, for history, for our weird and wacky country. For that reason and for many others, I love it back. The artist here has made an exhibit both delicious and coherent and, in a city full of patriot-mania, he’s produced a kind of anti-gift shop (that’s also a gift shop!) — a visual essay on our American roots and icons — each one a hero or villain or maybe both — depending on your point of view.

(image is Resnikoff’s relief carving of Thomas Jefferson which about makes the show for me. It’s subtle and serio-comical like everything else here)


Libby did such a great essay on the show I will refer you to it (see post) and say I think she got it right. The piece is about consumerism as well as about accomodating ourselves to our history. That’s something we should all be thinking about in a culture fueled by hero-worship and consumerism where the motto seems to be “buy now think later.” This is a show that looks back but is all about the future.

I don’t have a whole lot more to add but will share a few things Gallerist John Ollman told me when I stopped by the show last week.

Namely, that the artist produced this drawing (left) before he put the show together. He had a very clear vision of what he wanted to produce and by George Washington he did it, almost entirely the way he envisioned. That is the kind of straight-ahead thinking that comes when you actually have a vision — as opposed to a concept or an idea.



I’ve said before that Resnikoff is a consumate object maker. Here, too, his object-making is heartfelt, straightforward and accomplished. All the works but one — the whiskey jug (which is clay) are carved or sawed wood objects. They’re minimally painted because it’s not really about the paint, it’s about the idea of wood and the idea of connection between substances old and new, natural and unnatural. And Resnikoff has a great feel for his material. Whether he’s carving flip flops out of wood, or a rifle and bullets or a computer mouse pad, the artist seems to be in the great tradition of visionary carvers. (image is “The Congregation, a group of Shaker benches on which sit the beautifully-carved old and new objects)

One of the most ambitious carvings is one you can’t even really see — the Old Patriot Ghost. The life-size figure is covered in a white cloth that is a map of the United States the artist stitched together with black thread. I went up close and looked at the fingers of the hands. The carving is so delicate, the gesture so fine I wanted to lift the veil and study it. I didn’t. To me this is the piece that epitomizes the show — its vision of the past chasing us is both right on target and wonderfully comical. The suggestion of the white wedding gown trail following the ghost adds another level of comic love and displaced passion to the whole thing. (image is the Old Patriot Ghost)

Ollman told me that Resnikoff’s original idea for a show was to pay homage to the art and artists represented by the gallery in its 35-year history. But the project transmogrified into its current self instead. I think Resnikoff could do a great project riffing on the Fleisher-Ollman artists and I’d love to see him carve some of Bill Traylor‘s characters or take a crack at translating Bruce Pollock‘s trippy works into 3-D emanations. That could be amazing. This exhibit is up to Nov. 12. Don’t miss it.

(image is the postcard for the show in which the artist is sawing his way through the continent. I thought the shot nicely echoes the dress-up artist Rodney Graham in his show across town at the ICA.)

Tomo in Exile
In the gallery’s wing space out front near the desk, is a side dish of sweet works by Takatomo Tomita. Conceptual sculpture, prints, and drawings that are explorations all over the map, the works are kind of like the Japanese-born artist himself, who, due to passport problems, is now outside the US and hoping for a quiet and uneventful return.

The artist’s National Geographic Magazine “carvings” in which he translates the covers of the travel magazine into new musings on the world, are delicate, playful, and — in the context of the uneasy traveller in the world — poignant.

(image left is one of the National Geographic pieces)


Tomo’s book of drawings on buff stationary is also imbued with the young artist’s solitary musings on being and on being alone in the world. I flipped through the pages and loved the elegant doodles and every so often I stopped dead before some image with words that was almost too much to bear.

(image is one of the drawings from the sketchbook. The words say “Where To Go”)

The artist’s big screenprint, based on a photo of found grafitti and translated into two large prints is also a high point. The piece is elegant and also conveys the artist’s longing to figure things out and being just this side of understanding.